Disruptive making methods to teach collaboration, discourage individual bias, and support understanding and connection amongst design students.
University of Arkansas
Rachael L. Paine
North Carolina State University
We are interested in examining the theme of ego and idea
hoarding in student studios and design culture, methods for disrupting the
existing monological status quo approach to design pedagogy, and opportunities
for future culture shifts. During a short presentation, we will examine these
themes and the outcomes of a classroom workshop case study which employed
disruptive making methods to teach collaboration, discourage individual bias,
and support understanding and connection amongst design students.
Dr. Philip Plowright criticizes the culture of design
which aims to keep design unknowable (Plowright, personal communication,
October 24, 2018). The conceptual foundations of design practice claim to be
“indescribable and personal” (Plowright, 2017), with designers clinging to
assertions that methods are idiosyncratic, steeped in personal genius. A genius
instructor, fearful of sharing knowable, repeatable methods, must surely
produce students who further promote this broken culture. When a designer’s
goal is to be the smartest person in the room, the ego runs wild, idea hoarding
takes over, creativity dwindles, and conversation suffocates.
During a collaborative design charette, students
responded to questions about design authorship, origination, and agency. Using
rapid prototyping, iterative processes, design dialogue, and making methods,
students created multiple compositions reflecting their insights. Disruptive
prompts were introduced throughout the workshop. A formal discussion followed
the charette and participants engaged in a conversation.
Students explored complex topics in design culture and
also learned methods for collaboration, which allowed for free knowledge
exchange, design critique, and creative innovation. Challenging the traditional
studio model provides a learning space for addressing new challenges or “wicked
problems” while also learning skills for reaching agreements, coordinating
actions, discussing specific goals, and exploring new modes of discovery
(Dubberly & Pangaro, 2017).
Adopting a pedagogical approach that disrupts the
idiosyncratic design culture keeps the ego in check, generates collaboration,
fosters creativity, and encourages conversation. In the case of this workshop,
participants began to see themselves as a smaller part of the collective whole,
rather than an individual genius seeking personal gratification and
Dubberly, H., & Pangaro, P. (2017). Distinguishing
between control and collaboration—and communication and conversation. She Ji:
The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation. 2. 116-118.
Dubberly, H., & Pangaro, P. “What is conversation?
How can we design for effective conversation?” Dubberly Design Office, 1 May
2009, Retrieved from www.dubberly.com/articles/what-is-conversation.html.
Pask, G. (1976). Conversation theory: Applications in
education and epistemology. Elsevier Publishing Company, New York, NY, USA.
Plowright, P. (2017). Update – Project Goal. The
cognitive structure of design methods (architecture). Retrieved from